16 Practical Strategies To Help Tech Leaders Prioritize Projects

A long list of tech projects can be intimidating, but it’s up to a tech leader to spearhead the task of prioritization. The challenge is that there’s no single factor that always makes a tech project a “top” priority. Tech leaders must continually reevaluate customer and business needs, security risks, team resources, and more.

Identifying the one or more tech projects on your team’s list that will have the maximum positive impact takes careful consideration. To help, 16 experienced industry leaders from Forbes Technology Council have shared the strategies they rely on for prioritizing projects for their teams.

1. Use A Three-Step Method

The first step is aligning projects to business goals. The next step is to create a backlog of projects and then use the MOSCOW method—Must have, Should have, Could have, and Would have—to understand the urgency of each project. Add to that the final step of determining the economic impact of each project, and you will have a decent prioritization list. – Swathi Young, TechNotch Solutions

2. Align Each Project With A Specific Goal And Time Frame

Align projects with a specific business goal at a specific point in time. Those projects with the largest contribution should be prioritized at the top. For instance, if the business goal is to grow monthly recurring revenue, trials, users or something else, then the projects that contribute to this in the most significant way should be undertaken first. Do this continuously, and technology will always support business goals. – Vadim Vladimirskiy, Nerdio

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3. Create A Business Value/Business Risk Matrix

For all technology projects, create a matrix that evaluates each project’s business value/how it enables business growth combined with the business risk if the project is not executed. If this doesn’t sufficiently determine prioritization, then consider which projects are best for your customers. Finally, if all projects are equal, go back to core company values and understand which ones further the company brand. – Amit Sinha, Microsoft

4. Consider Alignment With Your Mission And Vision

Our leading question is, “How much is this project aligned with our mission and vision?” As simple as the question may sound, the implementation is quite technical. First, the vision and mission evolve over time, and it requires discipline to get it right. Second, on the implementation side, projects are evaluated through the lens of the vision, using the most cutting-edge tools. – Camille Morvan, Goshaba

5. Determine Which Issues Present Real Security Risks

Prioritizing patches often overwhelms security teams because everything appears to be critical. Security tools should ensure teams can visualize what needs immediate attention. Many issues do not actually need to be patched because they pose no risk. Security teams are often understaffed, and a strategic understanding of where to get started is essential to tackling projects. – Liran Tancman, Rezilion

6. Leverage Productivity Platforms To Maintain Project Visibility

Spearheading prioritization starts with asking yourself, “Do I know about everything that’s being worked on across my teams?” If the answer is “no,” you can’t really know which projects matter most. One way to increase your visibility is to leverage productivity platforms that bring all teams and work together in one place. This enables you to seamlessly track and connect projects to your business goals. – Zeb Evans, ClickUp

7. Consider Whether Customer Needs Or Investor Needs Are A Higher Priority

Ask yourself, “Who will this project benefit most—investors or customers?” For most companies, the customer comes first because they drive revenue. However, for a lot of startups or even public companies, the investor must come first because they give the business a capital lifeline. – Adam Ayers, Number 5

8. Ask How A Project Will Impact Customers

The first and foremost question: “Will it enhance the customer experience?” The answer to this can quickly separate the decorative from the fundamental. The second question: “Do we have the resources to take on this project right now?” A badly resourced project, resulting in mistakes—or in the worst case, burnout—can often do more damage to the customer experience than not taking on a project to begin with. – Martin Giess, EMnify

9. Don’t Think Of Value Only In Terms Of Revenue

It depends on the value that each project brings, whether that’s achieving business goals, enhancing employee satisfaction or retaining clients. I often see the decision being made based only on a dollar value—“How much money can we make?” However, value isn’t only about earnings. It’s also about the company’s reputation (market share), employee turnover (onboarding expenses) and other nonfinancial indicators. – Nadya Knysh, a1qa

10. Keep Your ‘Have To Do’ List Short

I’ve always used “have to do,” “need to do” and “want to do” when prioritizing efforts. It’s critical in risk management/cybersecurity because you often feel you “have to do” everything now. I never put more than three to five things on the “have to do” list so that we can focus all the team’s resources on getting those things done. Completing 100% of a few tasks is always greater than completing 40% of a lot. – Lewie Dunsworth, Nuspire

11. Focus On What Can Pay Off Now

When prioritizing tech projects, you should ask, “Which technology will have the biggest impact today?” Some technologies are implemented based on the vision of that technology but not the current reality. Two things will impact achieving value in the short term: The technology isn’t ready, or the team can’t take advantage of it. Make sure investments can pay off now as well as down the road. – Kazuki Ohta, Treasure Data

12. Determine Which Project Can Most Impact Other Projects

Taking on too many technology projects at once dilutes effort, and the scope leads to quality compromises and/or burnout. The core question to ask is: “Which particular project has the greatest impact and will unblock or accelerate multiple other projects?” This is an essential task for technology leaders, who must apply their deep understanding of technology dependencies and delivery of business value. – Tishampati Dhar, Aerometrex LTD.

13. Identify Each Project’s Measurable Business Impact

It’s tempting to set goals and objectives that are “checklist” items, such as launching a new collaboration platform. The risk is that you proudly check the box without delivering any real business value. Go a level deeper and identify the measurable business impact of each project, and then compare those impacts to prioritize. – Jay Goldman, Sensei Labs

14. Make Sure You Understand The True Value To Users

The first question I ask is, “What is the value this work brings to our users?” Value can be derived in multiple ways: a new feature, better UX flows, a faster and/or more secure environment, more consistent internal processes, better automation and so on. The second question I ask is, “How do you know this is true?” I ask this because, too often, we hypothesize that something will bring value, but in reality, it does not. – Kathy Keating, Ad Hoc

15. Factor In Required Resources

When prioritizing technology projects, the most important thing I consider is how each project impacts business objectives or presents a risk to the organization if it is not completed. After the business objectives and risks have been evaluated and ranked, it comes down to how well the business can support the cost and resources necessary to complete each project. – Jared Ablon, HackEDU

16. Balance Customer-Facing Projects With Business Tech Needs

Customer value is the most important lens. The more a project would be valued by customers, the higher its priority. But company value matters, too—building billing systems and refactoring code are also important. When one eclipses the other, you have a problem. I try to set a balance and allocate 80% of resources to projects with value to customers, if possible, adjusting the knob as necessary. – Patrick Walsh, IronCore Labs